Did you realise how transactional the on-line interaction space is? We sign into a meeting, we speak and interact, we sign out. There’s really no space for ‘bumping into’ someone we recognise as we walk through the room. There’s not an easy way to say, “Why don’t we find a seat and chat about …” As we walk across the carpark, we can’t wave out to a friend we haven’t seen for a while and stop to chat.
That’s what gathering has over the on-line experience. You could say, “Oh but breakout rooms are that moment for ‘bumping into’ someone.” Yes, for a moment before everyone else enters your breakout room and you’re forced to discuss the question, take notes, and return to the main gig. If two answer at the same time, there’s the awkward, “You go”, “No, you speak” that occurs; then because of the delay, you both speak at the same time again.
I wonder what you have enjoyed back in the face-to-face gathering space.
Isn’t it great to see whole people! People with legs and feet and fancy shoes. Do you love the sound of unmuffled laughter and free flowing conversation? What about the moments when tears well in the eyes of the person speaking as they recall a moment of grief or passion that has touched them?
Gathering has the freedom to connect in a way that on-line platforms can’t. That’s not to decry the on-line option. It has its place. Especially if we’re not in the same city or country. It’s a fantastic method to conduct meetings that are mostly a transactional interaction. Plus, I think it’s brilliant when the rain is pouring, it’s cold, and you can limit time in traffic!
How then can we prioritise gathering?
We can make it a space where people will find a sense of community and place to belong.
Perhaps we’re enjoying gathering in a large group. A concert, an event, even a busy shopping experience. Smile at people (did you know people make less eye contact in larger cities), acknowledge them, provide a moment of ‘I see you’.
Maybe the gathering is filled with friends and acquaintances, old and new. Now we can catch up and find ourselves chatting to catch up, celebrating the wins, finding out how people are travelling, and asking the Holy Spirit to prompt us in those moments when people might open-up and share their pain. It’s possible that if we’re new to a location, we find these gatherings especially meaningful as we develop deeper friendships.
For some, gathering can be emotionally taxing. All those conversations, all those people, all those people. If this is you, pace yourself. Find a place within the room to take a breath, have a quiet moment of reflection, even go outside for fresh air.
What if we dropped into this interaction that every connection is significant? That’s right, the eye-to-eye ‘I see you’, the offer of “can I pass you the bread?”, the introduction “I don’t think I’ve met you before”, and the curiosity “tell me more … I didn’t know this had happened.”
Giving of ourselves to people is a gift. We can make every connection significant by tuning in to what is being said and what the Holy Spirit is whispering. We can make every connection significant by being present; phone away, eye contact, concentrating on what is being said. We can make every connection significant, and in time, work towards making people feel needed and known. What will you concentrate on this week as you interact face-to-face?
Written by Jo Hood